Pachamama East brings to Shoreditch’s Great Eastern Street the Peruvian dishes that made the Marylebone restaurant a hit when it opened in 2014. But the Shoreditch menu has an identity of its own, placing the focus on Chinese ingredients such as Sichuan pepper, XO sauce, shaoxing wine and tofu and creating a space where both quinoa and yuzu ice creams live remarkably well beside each other. While Chinese culinary influences are inherent to Peruvian cuisine, it’s the creative mind of 31-year-old executive chef John Javier we have to thank for such a harmonious blending of the two here.
Like the neighbourhood in which it is situated, Pachamama East looks cool, with the expected stripped-down industrial interiors. It’s bright, airy and filled with plants – on the bar counter, the walls and even hanging from the ceiling. The open kitchen, surrounded by a concrete counter, divides the space between a restaurant area, accessed from Great Eastern Street, and a bar at the back overlooking Willow Street.
A meal here is intended to be a sharing experience; dishes are fairly small to give diners the chance to sample more of the menu. We follow our waiter’s recommendation of three to four dishes per person, ordering seven plates, including one dessert. My friend and I have big appetites, yet we still leave the restaurant with a box of leftovers.
First come sweet potato crisps (£4) sprinkled with sea salt – perfect to nibble on alongside pork-belly chicharrones (£5), a Pachamama signature dish. Finger-food snacks popular in southern Spain and Latin America, they are typically made with fried pork belly. The glazed meat and pork skin is sweet, a little bit spicy, and delicious. The rich flavours of this cuisine demand a refreshing drink, so I pair them with the Niñaflores (£7), a non-alcoholic cocktail with strawberries, lychee, passion fruit and fresh lime. A warm aubergine salad (£7 from the Pick & Mix lunch menu) is caramelised in soy sauce and tossed with roasted peanuts and coriander oil – a well-seasoned dish, and one of my favourites.
It would be a shame to miss the ceviche from the “sea” section of the menu, so I try the salmon version (£10) with ají limo tiger’s milk (a spicy citrus-based marinade), avocado, tomato and puffed rice. It’s a great pairing; the bold salmon flavours are elevated by zingy lime and sweet cherry tomatoes.
From the “land” menu, we love the crispy lamb belly (£11) with green pepper and miso, though the stir-fried beef (£12) with shaoxing rice wine and star anise is less impressive. The flavour and cooking are good, but the dish feels incomplete and the presentation doesn’t do it any favours. I end the lunch on a high, however, with a bitter Peruvian chocolate mousse (£6) topped with a nutty toasted quinoa ice cream and biscuit crumble.
Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with the @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.